Following the sudden demise of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in a Brussels hospital, thousands of fellow Ethiopians turned out in large numbers on Wednesday at Addis Ababa Airport to receive his body as it was jetted in amidst very tight military security. In a ceremony that brought together all Ethiopia’s government leaders, Meles Zenawi’s body was ceremoniously taken from the Ethiopian Airlines flight by the country’s top military officials. Draped in an Ethiopian flag, Meles body was taken to his official residence where it would lie till the date of his burial. Dressed in black was Meles’ wife Azeb Mesfin, who was also spotted at the airport leaving the plane as photojournalists snapped each and every move that took place at the airport.
It’s expected that Meles will be laid to rest in a state funeral that would be televised nationally and regionally via a live coverage. Meanwhile, as the state mourns his death, a state of national mourning was declared by the Ethiopian government with all flags flying at half-must. Having led his country since 1991, Meles has undoubtedly kept his best foot forward in ensuring that Ethiopia attains rapid economic growth. He would be remembered by many for always being on the frontline in trying to bring together his people and resolving both national and regional conflicts that have for years been a thorn in the flesh.
Since the announcement of his death, tributes and messages of condolences have been streaming in from all corners of the continent, far and beyond. Among the many tributes that have streamed in include US President Barack Obama who praised him for his long term efforts of eradication of poverty, improvement of food security, fostering regional coexistence and above all boosting development in the region. Sharing in similar sentiments was the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who also expressed her confidence in peaceful handover of political transition in accordance to Ethiopia’s constitution.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also sent his tributes identifying Meles as an exceptional leader in the Horn of Africa. Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were among the many Kenyan leaders who condoled with the Ethiopians saying that Meles was a leader who always showed commitment in stabilizing the region. Prime Minister Raila Odinga however indicated fears of a peaceful handover following the recent feuds which have been haunting the leadership in some of the regions in the vast cultured nation. He added that Meles was a great leader who managed to stand out firmly and strongly in some of the past fragile situations.
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